Cicely Tyson is an American actress and a reoccurring cast member on How to Get Away with Murder, portraying the role of Ophelia Harkness.


Early LifeEdit

Tyson was born and raised in Harlem, the daughter of Frederica Tyson, a domestic, and William Augustine Tyson,[1] who worked as a carpenter, painter, and at any other jobs he could find. Her parents were immigrants from Nevis in the West Indies.[2] Her father arrived in New York City at age 21 and was processed at Ellis Island on August 4, 1919.[3]


Tyson was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine and became a popular fashion model. Her first acting role was on the NBC series Frontiers of Faith in 1951. Tyson got her first play role in 1950 and her first film role in Carib Gold in 1956, but she went on to do more television work, such as the celebrated series East Side/West Side and the soap opera The Guiding Light. In 1961, Tyson appeared in the original cast of French playwright Jean Genet's The Blacks, the longest running off-Broadway non-musical of the decade, running for 1,408 performances. She appeared with Sammy Davis, Jr. in the film A Man Called Adam (1966) and starred in the film version of Graham Greene's The Comedians (1967). Tyson had a featured role in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968), and appeared in a segment of Roots.[4] In 1972, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the critically acclaimed Sounder. In 1974, she won two Emmy Awards for The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Other acclaimed television roles included Roots; King, in which she portrayed Coretta Scott King, The Marva Collins Story, When No One Would Listen, and The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, for which she received her third Emmy Award.

In 1982, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women, who through their endurance and the excellence of their work have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.[5] In 1988 she received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.[6] In 1991 she appeared in Fried Green Tomatoes as Sipsey. In her 1994–95 television series Sweet Justice, Tyson portrayed a civil rights activist and attorney named Carrie Grace Battle, a character she shaped by reportedly consulting with noted Washington, D.C. civil rights and criminal defense lawyer Dovey Johnson Roundtree. In 2005, Tyson co-starred in Because of Winn-Dixie and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The same year she was honored at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball.

Later CareerEdit

In 2010, she appeared in Why Did I Get Married Too?, and also narrated the Paul Robeson Award-winning documentary, Up from the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream. In 2011, Tyson appeared in her first music video in Willow Smith's 21st Century Girl. That same year she played Constantine Jefferson in the critically-acclaimed period drama The Help.[7] At the 67th Tony Awards on June 9, 2013, she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Miss Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful.[8] She also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for the role.[9] In 2013, Tyson had a supporting role in the horror film The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia.[10]


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